Editor’s note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week, she speaks with Alisha Valavanis, the Storm’s president and general manager. Valavanis, 38, marked the anniversary of her hiring in July.
Editor’s note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with Alisha Valavanis, the Storm’s president and general manager. Valavanis, 38, hit the anniversary of her hiring in July.
Question: You’ve made a mark your first season, which has included a revamped ticket program, a new Storm app and quirky in-game features, such as the “Between Two Birds” segments with Sue Bird. How do you view the past year?
Answer: We went into this year really committed to the experience as we build on the court. We wanted engagement opportunities and to try to create relevance. It’s been exciting for me, because people see the vision and are buying in. They’re showing up to games and having a good time. We had three consecutive games where the building (KeyArena’s lower bowl) was full. It’s too early to really tell, but there are a lot of indicators that we’re trending in the right direction.
Q: The partnership with Jamal Crawford’s Seattle Pro-Am in July was a first and one of the KeyArena sellouts (9,686 attendance) this season. What was the response to the doubleheader?
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A: Looking back, it was a very cool opportunity, and it yielded more of a return on the revenue end than we projected. But that was secondary to the buzz, the energy, the relevance and connection with the community. We wanted to stay within the nature of the (celebrity) Pro-Am game, which is a really late game, but maybe we can adjust the time frame. We’re going to see if there’s a chance to do this moving forward — the WNBA and NBA — instead of a one-year deal. It was a really special night.
Q: Japanese rookie Ramu Tokashiki said at the beginning of the season she would likely miss games in August to join her national team and compete for a 2016 Olympic berth. The FIBA Asia Championship for Women begins Aug. 29. When will she leave?
A: We’ll release the actual games she’ll be missing with the Storm soon. We’re in full support of Taku’s commitment to the Japan national team, and we wish her the best of luck.
Q: Taku (pronounced TOCK) seems to be adapting well to the WNBA style of play despite the language barrier. What do you think?
A: On and off the court, she’s a special player and person. I don’t know if I’m allowed to have favorites, but I have to be honest, I absolutely enjoy her and really like her game. She is so authentic that she’s a really fun person to be around.
Q: Marketing often is a smoke screen for the on-court play during a rebuild. Seattle is 4-5 at home and competitive in most losses; is that a pleasant surprise?
A: Yeah, you go into a scenario like this and you lock arms and commit to that there’s a game plan and that’s what (first-year Storm coach) Jenny (Boucek) and I did. With that said, the team is all-in, competing and I think our fans see that and respect where we are in this journey. I’m sure it can be seen out there, but Sue is leading this team. She’s been an incredible point guard and leader but is out there leading in a different, great way. I believe that’s why this is enjoyable and we’re having a good time. Right now it feels like we’re winning in a lot of ways when you talk about team and culture.
Jayda Evans’ WNBA power rankings
|Last week’s rankings in parentheses|
|1. (3)||New York||On a league-best 8-2 ride its past 10 games, plays Chicago on Tuesday in a conference showdown|
|2. (2)||Minnesota||Averaged 66.3 points in 1-2 stretch last week; season scoring average is 77.1 PPG|
|3. (1)||Chicago||Winless in two games against N.Y. and begins three-game trip Tuesday at Madison Square Garden|
|4. (12)||Los Angeles||Candace Parker averaging 16.3 points and career-high 5.8 assists since return|
|5. (4)||Phoenix||Had five-game winning streak snapped by Chicago, hosts Indiana on Sunday on ESPN2|
|6. (6)||Washington||Guard Kara Lawson has missed four consecutive games due to a back injury suffered in July|
|7. (5)||Indiana||Canadian Natalie Achonwa left to help national team vie for 2016 Olympic berth|
|8. (9)||Connecticut||Inconsistent play from the youthful roster dropped Sun outside the postseason picture|
|9. (10)||Atlanta||Angel McCoughtry’s 23 points in 98-90 win at Tulsa on Sunday helped end a six-game losing streak|
|10. (11)||San Antonio||Coach Dan Hughes’ injured back, suffered in collision with player, is latest in string of team injuries|
|11. (8)||Seattle||Hosts Kent’s Courtney Vandersloot and the Chicago Sky on Friday in first home game since July 21|
|12. (7)||Tulsa||Skylar Diggins for MVP? Shock 2-12 since All-Star suffered a season-ending knee injury in June|